Like other African American entrepreneurs in several industries, insufficient capital is one of the biggest hurdles for black real estate developers.

This lack of funding can hamper these business owners’ growth prospects and affect their ability to compete with large developers to win successful projects and cover operating expenses.

But online retail giant Amazon hopes to help change that. He pledges more than $21 million to pilot a two-year accelerator program to help real estate developers of color get ahead.

The program will provide real estate developers of color with education, mentorship, and access to capital in hometown communities in Puget Sound, Arlington, Virginia, Washington, and Nashville, in Tennessee.

The Amazon Housing Equity Fund Accelerator Program hopes to empower and create opportunity for developers who identify as people of color, including Black, Hispanic, Latino, and Native American.

The effort aims to reduce the barriers these developers face when bidding on affordable housing developments. The program’s goal is to increase the number of professional real estate developers of color who are focused on affordable housing and building an inclusive community.

Support is needed. Developers of color are underrepresented in the real estate industry. They don’t have access to capital to advance much-needed affordable housing projects to help their communities. According to a report by the Urban Land Institute, only 5% of its American members are black and 82% are white, even though blacks represent more than 13% of the American population. The gap results in a scarcity of diversity at the project development level, which can later prevent developers of color from working on lucrative real estate deals as cities grow.

“With this acceleration program, we are focused on nurturing emerging real estate developers of color. We want to foster their professional growth through education and training, as well as improve their access to capital, which can be elusive for developers of color,” said Catherine Buell, Director of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund. “If we are to bring lasting, holistic, and meaningful change to the way affordable housing is developed, developers of color must be part of the solution.”

Amazon partners with local social impact and economic justice organizations to develop programs and networking opportunities that reflect the specific issues of their communities. They include the Local Initiatives Support Society (LISC) in the Puget Sound area, Capital Impact Partners in the Arlington area, and the Middle Tennessee Urban League in Nashville. The acceleration program will initially support up to 30 participants in total by providing:

  • Virtual classroom and in-person instruction on real estate fundamentals, affordable housing trends, public policy, and financing best practices.
  • Small group mentoring.
  • Professional networking opportunities with industry leaders, researchers and established real estate developers.
  • Access to capital for pre-development expenses, such as architecture and engineering costs; permit, survey and site planning fees; and market and feasibility studies.

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